Want an online store? Read this first!
If you read this article to the end, you have an excellent chance to be successful in the e-commerce world. If you don’t, you may well wander forever in the purgatory of…purgatory.
Come out of near hell, my friend. Let’s make this venture work!
First, picture yourself opening a retail store on main street. All the things you must have: a building, inventory, good location, advertising, cash-in-hand, staff, bank account, etc. etc. Leave out any of those necessities and you are an empty store front.
Well opening an on-line store requires the same exact essentials. Substitiute the physical store with an online store and everything else is also need.
Probably you hear from every channel that you can kickstart a dropship-based store with no capital investment, and you can be a millionaire. This is false information. They are lying to you and I am not.
You need to build your store, and it costs money. It is also not true that you do not have to do anything just build your store and wait for visitors and orders to come. You need to be really lucky to simply just get found on Google. You need to plan your strategy well as for what to sell, who to target, how to manage your store, and your marketing.
So, let’s look at this.
1. Can You Afford it?
Every business requires capital investment. When starting an online store, the following expenditures are the basic ones you have to consider. Period
- Subscription cost of the ecommerce platform your store is running on
- Domain name, hosting, SSL
- Applications & software (Product data uploading & updating, Abandoned cart reminders, Newsletter software, Marketing apps, Accounting software)
- Hiring a webdesigner or paying for website themes/templates
- Marketing costs (advertising on social media and Google)
- Payment gateway, payment processing costs
- Shipping cost, logistics (optional)
Please keep in mind when starting an online store to not underestimate business startup costs. Also, you can’t just find one article that is about every kind of cost, you have to school yourself by reading information from many sources. You will also learn from your own experiences.
About your products.
There is a factor I didn’t mention above. It is paying for the product stock. The reason why I left it out is that it depends on whether you want to work with dropshipping or not. See below.
2. Working With Dropshipping, or Having Physical Stock?
Dropshipping has become popular in the last, let’s say 5 years. And is often seen as a quick, easy way to get rich quickly.
Many people are starting an online store because they hear they can make big amounts of money with just a little work, without stocking products.
This is the greatest advantage of dropshipping. You do not have to invest money in physical product inventory. Your supplier will ship the product directly to the customer—if you do not ask the company to ship to you first instead.
When you are starting an online store you need to decide if you wish to stock inventory so you can ship products as quickly as possible, and could provide maybe current day shipment as well. In this case, you have to make sure you stock the right amount of products. Make sure you are not wasting money stocking too many products, or in items you are unable to sell.
If you choose dropshipping, you will have an easier time. You don’t have to take care of logistics, shipping, having physical inventory, paying for a warehouse’s fee.
However, if you choose this business model, make sure you use reliable suppliers with good quality products and the market is not over-saturated.
3. Your Supplier’s Location
If you decided on starting an online store that is using dropshipping service you have to decide on your supplier’s location. It depends on your target audience’s location. Make sure the supplier’s warehouse location is close to your customers’ location. It is important to be able to provide fast shipping. If the shipping takes 1.5 weeks or even more, you are highly recommended to choose a different supplier. Fast shipping is key to have a successful e-store.
4. What Products to Sell?
In a nutshell, we can say: sell high-quality, premium, and unique products your target audience is in need of. Everything else depends on you.
The product you sell needs to be something you personally like and you are interested in. For example, it has to be a product range relating to a hobby you are passionate about. Make sure you pick something you will enjoy working with and you will not lose your passion.
You can also check what the winning products are currently when you are starting an online store. You have the opportunity to pick whether you want to sell winning or niche products.
Make sure to determine the product category you want to provide customers clearly. You are making your business’s identity by this. You will have to define your brand’s style as well. It is essential so you can differ from others on the market. Also, you need to know why you are selling those items.
If you find a product category you feel passionate about and you want to sell it is still not enough because you have to make sure your target audience needs this, and there is a great opportunity in it. Make sure you won’t just burn money when starting an online store to be one in a million, to offer items that can be bought in every supermarket and plaza. To find something that is not on the market is not easy. However, with a creative twist, you can stand out from the crowd. For example, by selling clothing of one color.
5. Your Target Audience
It is key when you are starting an online store to determine your target audience. There are many new e-marketers who don’t even think about it. However, who can’t decide on this, who can’t see it through, the business can’t be successful. Especially not in marketing.
Defining who your target audience is is helpful in who you should target with your online ads. It is also important so you can create a message you can convey well. Furthermore, it is useful so you can create your business strategies accordingly.
Define your buyer personas, your target audience based on these factors:
- Demographics (age, gender, location, education, family size, income, married or not, having kids or no)
- Job details (eg. job title, position, company sector, company size)
- Goals & challenges (main+secondary goal, primary+secondary challenge, how you can help them reaching and resolving these)
- Values & fears (what they value and fear during the sales process)
- Psychographics, identifiers (beliefs, culture, attitudes, personality traits,
- Buying behavior (eg. compare prices a lot, trend-follower, or choosing unique items)
- Influences (receive influence from ads, social media and YouTube influencers, preferred media outlets)
- Their buying preferences
You need to define another detail too: how you can help these people with your products and service.
6. What is Your Message?
When you are starting an online store you have to make sure it will have a unique identity. Every store, brand, and company has it. It can be for example the name of it. You also have to register this business name, and will have to create a domain name too for this online identity. The name can refer to what kind of products and services you are providing.
Why do you have to define a message for your brand and store? Because it will help stay in people’s minds. It shows your purpose and it will be helpful in the branding related processes as well.
For instance, your message can be related to saving the Earth, and in this case, you are selling eco-friendly, low- or zero-waste products.
You can show what your message is using visual elements too. Play with colors, symbols, styles, images. Also, do not forget about creating a logo that refers to who you are, what your store represents. Moreover, make sure your online store will use a unique design, and also make sure that if someone just takes a glance at it, they would know which store it is. Look for inspiration on the internet to get ideas about what style to apply elements from, but do not forget about your own creativity.
When you are starting an online store, you need to have a goal. You need to know why you are selling those certain items, how you can help people, why is what you offer important. You need to let your customers know in a gentle way why is it better to choose you instead of your competitors.
7. Which Ecommerce Platform to Choose?
It is a vital and crucial detail you have to make a decision about when starting an online store. You have to do research on more platforms and websites to be able to choose well regarding which ecommerce platform to run your online store on if you are not developing it yourself.
One of the most popular platforms is Shopify which provides a user-friendly platform. It is the best option for beginners and those as well who are on the market for a long time and now would like to switch to using a stable, reliable service with many useful features. It has an AppStore too where you can find an application and thus a solution for any of your problems, needs.
8. Goal of Income per Month
It is essential to always keep in mind the goal you want to reach. You have to take every step while managing your business by focusing on this matter. This is how you will know what amount of money you can and you should spend on marketing, hiring people, developing your online store, etc.
First, it is best to make a list of your expenditures. Your one-time and your ongoing costs as well. The first criterion of what to consider when starting an online store was about making sure you can afford to launch this business. There you can find some basic expenses you will have. Make sure your list will include those elements’ costs as well.
After you are ready with making bullet points about your expenses you can set a goal of profit that will be the difference between your total expenses and your total income.
Why is it important to set a goal of income per month when starting an online store? Because you need to take care of not spending more money than you could afford. Also so you can make sure to get a reasonable income and profit that will help your business to stay alive.
9. Marketing Activities
If you are starting an online store you need to know that marketing activities are crucial to be successful. It is not just about paid ads. It is also about emails, newsletters, and social media posts. If you have an e-store you always have ongoing tasks, you cannot just sit and wait for orders to come. You need to get to people somehow and persuade them to buy.
If you do not send emails about orders, registrations, and newsletters that include sales offers and useful information about products, do not even start this business. You need to find an application or software that will provide this email service you require so you would just have to create the content of the certain email messages.
As for marketing activities where you do not have to spend money on any software we can mention Search Engine Optimization (SEO) as well. With the help of it, you can build a long-term strategy that will help your website to rank higher on search engines.
You can also boost your marketing strategy with paid search results on search engines, and ads on social media platforms. You need to plan your marketing and advertising strategy well, and also do not forget about visual appearance as well. If you post something on social media, if you create an ad, if people go to your website, they have to be able to identify you.
What other tools you can use to boost sales and make people become your fan? Gifts, discounts, special deals just to mention a few examples. You can see marketing activity is not only essential when you are just starting an online store, but it has a key role in the overall business process, continuously.
10. Check Your Competitors
Before you are starting an online store you need to check your competitors in order to be able to know how you can be different from them. If you check their activities and perceive which parts of it are successful, you can get ideas from them, but do not copy everything. Offer something better, or different than them.
Thorough competitor analysis is a great help for you to be able to build your business strategies for example on what kind of products to offer, how to run marketing activities, what kind of business message to create. Also in what shipping preferences to provide, which suppliers you could cooperate with + many more.
Make sure you recognize it well when starting an online store who your target audience is. Your real competitors can’t be huge supermarkets or world-known online stores. You wouldn’t be able to compete with them in any way. This is why it is a great idea to sell unique products. Try to find items that your target market is not saturated with.
Further Details to Consider When Starting an Online Store
You can probably see now that starting an online store is not child’s play. It would be also possible to say that the list of factors that are needed to be considered is endless. Examine the below-mentioned aspects as well to be well-prepared for starting an online store:
- Return policies (you can discuss it with your dropship supplier that how you will manage returns together)
- Credit card processing
- Shipping program (carriers, shipping fee, where you ship-high shipping fees might make customers abandon their shipping carts)
- Fulfillment strategy
- SEO (it helps you bring traffic for free, and helps you rank higher on search engines)
- User-friendly website
Careful pre-planning is essential when starting an online store. Grab a pen and a notebook and write down each of your ideas so everything can be in one place. In the beginning, this whole world might be a gray area for you, but hard work and spending much time studying will pay off. You may also want to check with your accountant and experts to find out the legal business strategies you can follow, and to be able to run your company safely.